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Journal Entry: You Have My Permission to… NOT… “Click Here”

Don’t look now, but you just gave me your social security number. You shouldn’t worry, though. I’m not the one who’ll be doing anything with it. I just get the information. My customer uses it.

Who am I, you might be asking? Well, I could be your average bored but intelligent malicious code writer. Perhaps I am a neighborhood teenager who spends too much time in front of my computer. I could even be a member of a group of programmers paid to do these things by people who will use your information in ways I don’t know. You have a computer and because you use the Internet, I have a way into your PC’s hard drive.


Creative Commons License photo credit: alex_lee2001

Blocked in FireFox 3

With a few simple steps on your part, which you could do by accident or without even knowing you’re doing them, I can gain control of your PC, or get your PC to send me everything you type. What information might that get me? Do you access your bank account from your home PC? I can get your username and password and therefore access your account. As far as the bank is concerned, I could be you. Do you have an email address? That can grant me access to your address book and into the PCs and lives of your friends and relatives. If you have an online payment account tied to your brick and mortar bank, I could falsify a transaction and wipe out your finances in a few minutes, all because I had a program watching your every online move.

These are some scary items, but they aren’t certainties and by no means are they guaranteed to happen to everyone. However, it makes sense to be prepared to stop people like me from doing this to you. If you don’t protect yourself, and your PCs, no one else will. The products, suggestions, and countless lines of defense available won’t do you any good if you don’t learn, practice, and, where necessary, install them.

The first line of defense against any malicious computer user is common sense. If you don’t know where a program came from, what it’s for, why it’s there, or if it will do what you expect it to do, don’t use it. There, I said it: you have permission to NOT “click here,” “click this,” or “install that.” You wouldn’t leave a total stranger in your home without someone watching, why would you allow a strange piece of software on your computer?

Here are some common sense approaches to stopping the bad things from getting into your computer before they have a chance:

1) Use strong passwords. Your cat’s name is not strong. A long password using a mixture of capital and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols is best. For example: 1Pa$$w0rD! passed the security test. Here is a link to a website that will help you understand the difference between a weak and a strong password. (http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/checker.mspx) (Hint: if it’s in the dictionary, don’t even think about using it.)
2) Think three times before you install software from sources you aren’t familiar with. I don’t mean avoid all legitimate download sites and never add anything to your computer that might benefit you. I mean avoid installing or running programs you didn’t ask for that come to you via email or from popups on Internet web pages. These are the key locations for a malicious software package to sit and wait. Many times people click “OK” just to get a popup window out of their way. This habit plays right into a malicious software programmer’s plan.
3) Anti-virus software packages exist to help you keep your system under your control. Many packages are created by many different companies ranging in price from totally free to several hundred dollars. Do a little research, find the one you think will work best for you, and use it.
4) Firewall software has become a standard on most new operating systems from Windows XP to Linux to Mac OS X. These programs limit software access to and from the Internet to only those programs that you want accessing your computer. In many cases, these programs can make your computer invisible to anyone in the outside world, allowing you to surf the Net in peace and privacy.

You have to take care of yourself. No one else will do it for you, and certainly no one will be able to do as good a job of keeping your private data private. After all, the person you trust to do that for you could be me.

Harry Hacker, signing off…. for NOW! and please don’t use the Best Managed PC Care on the Planet!

More Posts From Around The Web:

Chinese Computer Hackers Steal Information from Congressional … – This recent crime by Chinese computer hackers is horrific. With complete disregard for the privacy of these offices, individuals stole the private information of American citizens and sought to sabotage our government. …

Hackers, spam and a glimpse of our garden – Hackers had managed to gnaw their way in, insertng extra paragraphs packed with links on some of my posts. Luckily this somehow disabled comments on the affected posts. We were bemused and finally discovered the rogue comments when we …

Hackers steal credit card details of 38000 customers – It has been reported that the credit card details of around 38000 customers were stolen from the clothing company Cotton Traders after it had been attacked by hackers online.

Salesmen and Hackers – While the Irish are wreaking havoc in the European Union, something is doing the same to Danish computers: The Danish Inland Revenue Service has blown up as has, rather ominously, the police. What is the problem here? …

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  1. 5 Comment(s)

  2. By DavidC on Jun 16, 2008 | Reply

    Very good post… A lot of good practical information with valuable insight to the mind of a hacker.

    DavidCs last blog post..Mar 12, The DMV Will Find Out… Is It Really Your Face? Or The Face Of An ID Theif?

  3. By Talitha on Jun 18, 2008 | Reply

    Online Security does indeed start with simple lines of defense – as much as I hate password rules that require numeric as well as alpha characters, I know they make sense.

  4. By Gayle on Jul 12, 2008 | Reply

    This was a fun read…Harry!

    Fraudulent activity can take many forms. However, knowing how fraudsters operate can help you identify and protect yourself from fraud.

  5. By Online Security Authority on Jul 15, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Gayle,

    I am glad you enjoyed the article it was meant to be a little slice of Hacker Heaven, and to show how easy it is when a cybercriminal makes you a target there is not much you can do… the best Managed PC Care we have found is: http://managedpccare.com/ this is the only true way of being safe online. Please run the PC test, and you’ll be glad you’re taking steps to protecting your internet connection, and PC…

  6. By Isaac Collins on Mar 4, 2009 | Reply

    How do I fix it – my little sister clicked the link and now my pc is creating error messages every 2 seconds!

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